It crossed my mind that a common question people ask when they’re about to buy a new guinea pig is: “Which is better: a male or a female guinea pig?”. So, I decided to check into it myself and write some information about it here.
Commonly, getting a pair of young females is the best option if you’re a new guinea pig owner. However, if you’ve decided to only get one guinea pig, then the gender doesn’t really matter as long as the cavy is healthy – both genders make excellent pets and are delightful in their own way.
This is only a brief overview of what goes into determining whether having a female or male guinea pig is better. If you are interested in a more in-depth guide what to expect from each gender, keep reading below.
Which Gender Should I Get if I Only Want One Guinea Pig?
While it’s best for guinea pigs to have a friend, some owners just want one guinea pig. If that’s the case, consider the following criteria to figure out whether a male or female guinea pig is best for you.
- Fighting & Aggression
- Health Issues
- Space Requirements
- Aromas (a.k.a. The Stink Factor)
Overall, guinea pigs are sweet, friendly creatures and will make a delightful addition to your household. The chart below shows some comparisons that should help you make your decision.
What if I Want to Have Two Males, Two Females, or a Mix?
As a first time guinea pig parent, it’s best that you have all females. In fact, I suggest that you get at least two.
Typically, your piggies will be happier if there are two of them. And happier is better, isn’t it?
Some people own just one guinea pig and report that their little friend is perfectly happy (with extra love and attention from their pet parent, of course).
But, it’s strongly suggested – if it’s practical for you – to own a pair. Guinea pigs are social, herd animals – they do better in groups. Also, guinea pigs are awake roughly twenty hours a day.
It’s best to go to a rescue, shelter, or pet store (with a good reputation) that you trust when it’s time for you to pick out your piggie family. Ideally, you want to go somewhere that is staffed with people that have tons of experience matching up guinea pigs. They’ll help you take the “guess work” out of the process.
Wouldn’t it better if your little friends had someone (besides you) to enjoy their long days with?
So, why do so many people see having two female guinea pigs as the best option? There are reasons why having two females is most popular around the world. Here are a few of them:
- Fighting: When they’re first introduced, two females might jockey for position to figure out “who’s in charge”. Typically, this process is not as aggressive as it can be with males. But, guinea pig personalities do play a role in this situation. Since it can be really distressing to you (not to mention noisy and sometimes bloody) to see cavies fighting, this should definitely be considered.
- Cleanliness: Sows (female piggies) are usually a lot tidier than males. They usually don’t tip over their food bowls or spread garbage around their cage. Less work for you, since guinea pig cages usually have to be spot cleaned once or twice a day.
- Aroma: Guinea pigs have a grease gland on their bottom – kind where their tail would be if they had one. It oozes an oily, greasy substance that allows them to scent and mark surfaces. And it can really stink. Females usually smell a lot better than males.
If you have your heart set on two males guinea pigs, just keep the following in mind to make the experience more pleasant.
Many concerned piggie parents have been bitten trying to break up a cavy fight. If you have to break up a fight, use a towel or oven gloves to carefully separate your little ones.
Fighting: Males (like females) are more likely to get along if they’ve grown up together. Maybe as brothers? They’ve had a chance to figure out who is the alpha (a.k.a. the BOSS), so there’s less fighting.
You can avoid some of the fighting by making sure that:
- There’s enough space for both of them by having a large enough cage (7.5 square feet is the minimum). In terms of guinea pig space, bigger is better. Male guinea pigs are playful, but can be aggressive and territorial. They need room to maneuver and to avoid each other when necessary.
- Make sure that you’ve gradually introduced them to each other.
- You have two of everything for each piggie, so that they have less to fight about. In the wild, a lot of aggression stems from a lack of resources (or disagreements over access to females)
- Another cage to transfer one of your guinea pigs to if they need to be separated. You can always reintroduce them to each other later, once they’ve had a day or two to calm down.
Sometimes guinea pigs just don’t get along. It happens. Just like humans, they don’t like every other piggie that crosses their path. It’s okay. Even if guinea pigs can’t share the same cage (due to fighting), your piggies can still benefit from seeing, hearing, and smelling each other – from different cages in the same room.
Some say that neutered males are be less likely to fight with other males.
Uh, nope. Sorry. That’s not true.
Unlike other animals (like dogs), de-sexing has no effect on guinea pig behavior.
Ultimately, most aggressive responses depend on the personality of the guinea pigs and can be influenced by the piggie’s environment.
If you’re going to have a mixed gender group of guinea pigs living together, have the male neutered. It’s less riskier for males than females. If you don’t, you’ll be a “grand” pet parent faster than you can blink. Guinea pigs breed, well, like rabbits. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough good homes for the needy piggies that are in the world now. It’s better not to add more into the mix unless you can guarantee each of them a great home.
Cleanliness: Male guinea pigs are basically slobs. They do a horrible job of keeping their cages tidy. But, it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Just plan to spend a little bit more time keeping your cavy’s home neat and clean.
Aroma: If you take the time to clean your cavy’s grease gland properly and regularly, then there’s nothing to stop you from enjoying your two friendly, male piggies. It’ll be crazy gross and awkward at first. But, you’ll get better at it.
Thinking of Adding Another Cavy to Your Guinea Pig Family? (Read this first)
So you have a little pig or pigs and you’re thinking of expanding the love?
Good for you!
But, you’re more likely to keep peace and harmony amongst your little friends if you consider the following before you grow your guinea pig family:
Let’s say you that you have:
- One male: If your male if neutered, it would be best to introduce a female. They’ll get along beautifully. But, another good match would be a baby male guinea pig (about 6 weeks old).
- Two males: Whatever you do, do not introduce a female. The males will be at each other’s throats to exert dominance over each other. If you’re going to introduce another cavy, let it be a male. But, introducing a third male to a bonded pair can be a little bit trickier. Sometimes a trio of males don’t gel together as well as a bonded pair. However, some owners have reported doing so successfully.
- One or two females: Another female will usually warmly welcomed (after the introduction period). Female guinea pigs get along very well with other females because they’re all so docile and shy.
- One female: Easy peasy. Introduce her to another female and watch the friendship sparks fly.
Whatever you do, do NOT have multiple males with one female (or even any females). Female guinea pigs go into heat quite frequently (say every two to three weeks). The males will fight with each other for the right to mate with her, which will make the entire situation stressful (and dangerous) to all involved – especially you.
How to Introduce Guinea Pigs to Each Other
The name of the game is patience. Guinea pigs need time (and lots of it) to adjust to their home environment and to each other.
Before your introduce guinea pigs, don’t forget to:
- Find out as much about the new cavy as possible, such as age, gender, personality, health. You really want to make sure that the new guinea pig is not sick or pregnant. And you want to find the perfect friend for your little piggie. If you’re adopting your new guinea pig, you can ask the previous owner or adoption center staff questions about the following topics: mood, cuddle and snuggle preferences, general personality traits, and health.
- Give your new guinea pig a chance to get used to their new home before introducing them to their new companion.
- Make sure you have a big enough hutch or cage for both cavies as well as additional supplies like bedding, food (make sure you have enough), toys.
- Do some scent-swapping. This means you swap the bedding, toys and other items of your cavies. That way they get used to each other’s smell.
- Place their cages near each other, so they can clearly see, hear, and smell each other without touching. If there’s a lot of cheerful squeaking, sniffing, and popcorning (delighted bucks and jumps in the air) happening, you know you’re on the right track. And you’re ready to take it to the next level.
You’re likely to have a more successful introduction if you attempt the following pairings:
–a female with another female
–a female with a neutered male
–a baby guinea pig with an older male or female
–a submissive male with a dominant male
Pairing piggies can be complex and as nerve-wracking as all get out. It’s important to stay calm, focused, and know when to get an expert involved. And even better? Know which pairings are likelier to work than other.
There are some things you should do to “set the tone” for a successful physical introduction.
- Now it’s time to share some space with each other. If possible have one person hold each cavy next to each other to begin the process.
- Then put both of them down in a large, quiet enclosure (neutral territory with fresh liners or bedding). There shouldn’t be hidey toys for guinea pigs to sneak into…(or if you do have hideys, make sure they have at least two exits). The territory should be neutral – unmarked by guinea pig scent. You don’t want one of your cavies becoming territorial over their area. Watch their interaction closely and look for positive and negative interactions. Have a board, towel, or dustbin ready to separate them in case they start fighting.
- Provide two water sources snacks like vegetables and hay. It’ll distract your piggies and soothe their nerves. And it helps them to get more comfortable with each other as they eat. Positive associations with each other’s company is an added bonus. Just make sure there’s plenty, so they don’t fight over it.
- Try to end the meeting on a positive note and then try again the next day if possible. Several meetings like this will allow your guineas to bond.
- When you’re seeing a lot of positive interactions and you’re not worried about your guinea pigs getting along, move them into the same cage. But, still keep a careful eye on your little friends.
Some guinea pigs will bond right away. Others will need more meetings to become fully comfortable, confident, and happy with their new friend.
If the guinea pigs react negatively or aggressively to each other, don’t be discouraged.
It is a sign that you need to take a step back to the scent-swapping stage. Then slowly start the process again.
It can be difficult to tell the difference between negative reactions and normal dominance behavior in guinea pigs.
Take a peek at the table below to get a feel for what you should look for during these introductions.
|Negative Reaction||Positive Reaction|
|Showing Teeth||Marking territory by dragging their bottoms on the ground|
|Hissing, biting, or trying to injure each other||Rumblestrutting – a sort of vibrating “I’m the boss” walk|
|Raised hackles – a fluffing of fur to appear bigger & scarier to other piggies||Nudging or head-butting or grooming each other|
|Stressed squeaking that gets louder & more shrill||Lots of squeaks or wheeks|
|Drawing blood (SEPARATE IMMEDIATELY)||Popcorning – jumping around in happiness|
It. Is. Soooooo…important to understand the difference. Otherwise you’ll prematurely separate your pigs just as they’re working out what’s what and who’s who…
And you don’t want to do that if it can be helped.
Keep a few things in mind:
- Both males and females show dominance behavior.
- It’s a natural process that must happen when new piggies are introduced to each other.
- This process has to continue until one of the guinea pigs backs down. Your piggies have to work out who is dominant and who is submissive.
And guess what…
Each time you separate them, the process has to start all over again.
Don’t put your piggies through unnecessary stress.
Decide on a course of action and stay the course-whatever that journey looks like for you and your pigs.
Male or Female? How Can You Tell?
Looking at hair color, size, weight, or length is basically useless.
The best way to figure out the gender of your cavy is to take a peek at their reproductive organs.
But, what do you look for?
You can figure out if your guinea pig is a boy or a girl by taking note of the two main things.
- Look for shapes. A male’s private parts resemble a lower-case i and it’s usually pretty obvious. A female’s looks more like a slightly scooped out letter Y. But, sometimes it can be hard to tell. If you gently part the genital region of, you should be able to locate the
- Look at the distance. Specifically, look at the distance between the genitals and the bum-bum of your guinea pig. A female’s genitals are closer to the bum-bum than the genitals of a male.
The video below should be helpful, too.
It can be very difficult to tell if your guinea pig is a male or a female. When in doubt, always take your cavy to an experienced veterinarian.
If you’re going to try to identify the sex of your little buddy, wait until the cavy is at least 3 weeks old. It’s hard to figure out the sex of guinea pigs younger than that.
Let’s Wrap Up
Your journey to picking out, raising, or introducing the right guinea pig to your family can be a little nerve-racking – because you don’t always know how it will go.
Hopefully this article has been helpful and given you a little peace of mind with the process.
Taking care of guinea pigs is an enriching and enjoyable experience, because each guinea pig has its own unique preferences and behavior. Two cavy females are preferable for a variety of reasons. However, many people keep a pair of male guinea pigs happy together with very little trouble.
In the end, remember to take the facts and make the best informed decision that you can when adding a new cavy to your family.